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Re: Reflection on The Summers Theory

s342972 wrote:
> I've been following the Summers Theory e-mail up to its conclusion and it
> has presented the following points.

> 1) More education is needed for young scientists (particularly in high
> school) in two areas.
>   *) the ability to back up statements and not present false material
>   *) to properly identify themselves and not act out a charade in order
> to be heard

These are both good points.  If people are going to play with the Big
Boys and Girls, they should be aware of the niceties of scientific
protocol and etiquette, and they should not make misleading claims to be
who they are not.  In this, you are right, and high school is a good
time to start this sort of instruction.  HOWEVER, in the case of the
author of the Summers Theory, this individual is not even in high school
yet.  I seriously doubt that she was even aware of the fact that there
is anything wrong with claiming to be a published professional
paleontologist.  From the private discussion I had with her, I can tell
you that she certainly did not intend to play any charades or offend
anyone.  She has learned a lesson, and I hope she will rejoin us soon if
she hasn't already.  (Are you out there, Brittany?)
> First year science at my University consisted of continous lectures of
> back-up your statements and do not dismiss data and outliers because it
> may be relevant. My High School science education had not touched on this
> very important topic. Clearly this must be amended.

> 2) Young members of this mailing list should be heard out and not
> dismissed due to their age.

> I feel that young people should feel encouraged to post to this listing
> (after all they'll be running the place in 50 years) and if they present
> an idea with flaws other members of this listing should take it upon
> themselves to point out the mistakes and suggest alternatives.

Yes, this is true, but these discussions should be carried on in an
atmosphere of non-judgmental, friendly criticism - not derision and
scorn.  If we blast the young'uns with their mistakes all at once, we
will quickly lose them.  Maybe we'll lose them for ever, and that is not
a good thing.  We all need to remember how sensitive we were to this
sort of thing when we were teenagers.  It is possible to teach, and to
correct errors, in a manner that allows the perpetrator to feel a sense
of accomplishment and determination to do a better job next time.

> The main ingredient that makes the Internet one of the most revolutionary
> things since the printing press is its ability to allow anyone (those
> with access of course) the freedom to present their ideas to anyone who
> is willing to listen/read. And this is also its bane because these
> opinions/charade can be confused as fact and lead to all sorts of
> problems.

Exactly what happened here.

> It might also be good policy to include a set of rules (of which most of
> you would unconsciously know anyway) on correct procedures to post to
> this list so that younger members  do not unwittingly cause such mahem.

I think if we all keep in mind the basic concepts of respect for others'
ideas and feelings, and try to understand the context of these things,
no rules are necessary.  

Just my own personal opinion,

Wes Copas